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God the Son: Truly Human

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This post is my contribution to a project called Bloggin’ the 28, which I’ve been posting links to throughout the summer. Sponsored by the Spectrum Blog, the project engages bloggers in writing about and reflecting upon the ethical implications of the 28 fundamental beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist church. The last entry was about the Sanctuary, by David Hamstra and Marty Thurber at Just Pastors. Go read it! Then come back here and read my post, below, which is a reflection upon Fundamental Belief #4: God the Son. To start off, here’s the church’s official statement:

“God the eternal Son became incarnate in Jesus Christ. Through Him all things were created, the character of God is revealed, the salvation of humanity is accomplished, and the world is judged. Forever truly God, He became also truly man, Jesus the Christ. He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He lived and experienced temptation as a human being, but perfectly exemplified the righteousness and love of God. By His miracles He manifested God’s power and was attested as God’s promised Messiah. He suffered and died voluntarily on the cross for our sins and in our place, was raised from the dead, and ascended to minister in the heavenly sanctuary in our behalf. He will come again in glory for the final deliverance of His people and the restoration of all things. (John 1:1-3, 14; Col. 1:15-19; John 10:30; 14:9; Rom. 6:23; 2 Cor. 5:17-19; John 5:22; Luke 1:35; Phil. 2:5-11; Heb. 2:9-18; 1 Cor. 15:3, 4; Heb. 8:1, 2; John 14:1-3.)”

What does it mean to say that Jesus was and is “Forever truly God,” but also that “He became … truly man”?

On this fourth fundamental belief Seventh-day Adventists clearly align ourselves with the rest of Christianity, over against those who do not define themselves as Christians. Here is the great divide between those who worship Jesus as God and those – Muslims, some Buddhists and Hindus and pagans, even many atheists and agnostics – who consider Jesus to be a good and exemplary man, an inspired spiritual teacher. To say that this first-century Jewish peasant preacher was more than a great teacher – that He was and is “forever truly God” — is to cross a clearly-defined line in the sand.


Yet even that line is not as clearly defined as it once was, for today many people self-identify as “Christian” yet don’t believe Jesus was “truly God.” Many people believe that the Biblical passages in which He calls Himself “Son of God” were placed into His mouth later by gospel writers; that Jesus never imagined Himself in such lofty terms; that He was, perhaps, a “son of God” only in the sense that all human beings are sons and daughters of God.

That particular doctrinal heresy – denying the divinity of Christ – is one few Seventh-day Adventists are likely to fall into. We are conservative, traditional, Bible-believing Protestants; we remain firmly in the mainstream of Christianity in affirming that God the Son existed in heaven with the Father from eternity, became incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth, was raised from the dead and continues to exist as part of the Godhead. The divinity of Jesus is not one of the things we Adventists argue about, much.

As I look back on the religious training I received growing up in Seventh-day Adventist home, church and school, it seems to me that we may have veered – unintentionally, no doubt – a little too far in the opposite direction. Or perhaps the fault lay not in my teachers, but in the mind that received their teaching. For whatever reason, I grew up with the vague impression that while Jesus’ divinity was absolutely unshakable and beyond question, His humanity was more of a theoretical construct.

The Jesus I met in Sabbath School and in Bible classes was the Great Physician, the Friend of Sinners, the Lamb of God. But He was also a little like Superman banished from Krypton, or like Zeus on one of his amorous visits to a mortal woman. This Jesus was omniscient, omnipotent, and supremely confident in His divinity. Humanity was a costume He wore, but at any moment He could snap His fingers and call ten thousand angels to subdue His enemies – though He chose not to. His body was human, and capable of weariness and pain (though perhaps not of sickness – I remember junior Sabbath School arguments about whether Jesus ever had a cold). But His mind was in constant, effortless contact with Heaven, never subject to doubt or uncertainty or fear – or any of the weaknesses that make us truly human.

I am fairly sure that my Sabbath School and church school teachers did not intend to transmit the heresy of Docetism; they were simply so anxious to underline the divinity of Christ in a world that mocked it, that they unintentionally backpedaled and downplayed His humanity.

It wasn’t till I began reading the works of more liberal Christian writers on the historical Jesus – authors like John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg – that I began to seriously examine my perception of the humanity of Jesus. While I couldn’t believe, as they did, that Jesus was merely human, I realized when I explored my inner picture of Jesus that the Jesus I’d been worshipping and following all these years wasn’t even truly human. He was God dressed up as a human, like Superman wearing those ridiculous Clark Kent glasses that apparently made it impossible for anyone to recognize his true identity.

But it wasn’t only the works of liberal Christians that forced me to confront the humanity of Jesus. It was Scripture itself — passages like the story of Jesus’ temptation by Satan in the wilderness (Matthew 4; Luke 4). When Satan tempted Jesus, he threw down the challenge: “If you are the Son of God….” If Jesus was incapable of self-doubt, if He knew He was divine the same way I know I am a woman, then how was this a temptation? He wouldn’t have been tempted, even for a moment, to prove Himself if there had been no possibility of doubt.

Nor would the temptation have been meaningful without the possibility of sin. If you can’t possibly give in, if you soar so far above normal human concerns that sin has no attraction for you, then you can’t really be tempted. Jesus’ temptation, Jesus’ struggle with Satan – not just at the end of forty days in the wilderness, but throughout His earthly life – meant nothing if He was not truly human, for to be truly human is to be capable of failure.

I have it on good authority that the best theological minds of the ages have been unable to explain how Jesus could be fully God and fully human. I am no theologian at all, so I do not attempt an explanation. I suspect for the most part we have gotten around the unexplainable by emphasizing one aspect of Jesus’ nature at the expense of the other – imagining Jesus as a human being who was just a little godlike, as many liberal Christians do today, or imagining Jesus as God only pretending to be human, as I did for so many years.

Today, I try hard to keep that uneasy tension, to remember that Jesus really was truly human. But why? Questions about the Incarnation, about the divine/human nature of Jesus, have to be at the extreme angels-dancing-on-pinheads end of impractical theological arguments. Who really cares? What impact does it make on my everyday life if Jesus was, not merely human, but truly human – capable of pain and fear and doubt and depression? What impact does it have on my relationships with other human beings?

In some ways, the idea of a truly human Jesus scares me. But a truly human Jesus also does three other, more practical things for me:

1. A truly human Jesus knows me.

Surely one of the greatest Bible texts affirming Jesus’ humanity is Hebrews 4:15 – “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.”

I’ve heard people say that Jesus can’t possibly have been tempted in every way like they are – because He wasn’t a woman, or elderly, or disabled, or gay, or married, or a parent, or because He didn’t have to live in the twenty-first century with all the temptations that continually bombard postmodern people.

The point, surely, is not that Jesus experienced every single temptation, every single trial a human could ever be exposed to, but that His temptations were as real and difficult for Him, His trials and suffering as painful and discouraging, as ours could ever be. He is, in the beautiful words of the King James Version, “touched with the feeling of our infirmities” because He has felt them too. He was not simply a god putting on human costume, going through the motions, pretending to suffer. He was as real a human being as you or me, and when I cry out to Him in pain and fear and despair, He knows what I’m talking about.

2. A truly human Jesus challenges me.

But the last phrase of Hebrews 4:15 is the killer – yet was without sin. How could that be? How could He know real temptation, just as I do, yet not fall as I do?

Again, I think this takes me into theological waters deeper than I am capable of swimming in. I believe that if Jesus was truly human, that means He was truly tempted. He could have chosen to sin. He chose not to. And if He was truly human, he did this, not in His own superhuman strength, but in the strength of a human being who chooses to rely on the grace of God. The strength, it seems, that is available to any of us.

I say this not to raise the spectre of perfectionism, which is honestly not a topic that interests me much since it seems so remote from the reality I live in, but to affirm the words of the second century church father Irenaeus, who said, “The glory of God is man fully alive.”

Jesus came to die for our sins and rise again to defeat death, but what did Jesus live for? What did His thirty-plus years of human life mean? Could they have been meant to show us what a human being is capable of – what human beings can be once they are fully alive, restored to the image of God that is still within each of us? Jesus’ example offers at once both hope and a challenge, for a truly human Jesus shows us what human beings can be and can do when they allow God’s Spirit and God’s grace into their lives.

3. A truly human Jesus confronts me.

Back to the convoluted and mysterious book of Hebrews for a moment – to Hebrews 2:11, where the author says, speaking of Jesus and of human beings: “So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.”

Where in the gospels does Jesus refer to human beings as His brothers? In one of His most powerful sermons, in which He uses the imagery of sheep and goats – Matthew 25:31-46. After affirming the selfless acts of the saved – visiting the sick and prisoners, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked – Jesus reminds them: “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

If any passage in the gospels should convict us, this should be the one. Jesus was not merely a divine being walking around in human clothes for a few years. He was a real human being – so much so that He identifies Himself, for all time, with suffering and hurting humanity. In the face of every suffering human being, Jesus confronts us. He tells us plainly that when we serve those in need, we serve Him. When we ignore those in need, when we make ourselves comfortable at their expense, when we make excuses to justify our coldness and our lack of involvement and even our hate – then we turn that coldness, that ignorance, that hatred on Jesus Himself, the one we claim to worship.

This is a hard saying. As I look at the mass of suffering humanity, I can see many faces in which I find it easy to find the reflection of Jesus. For example, I find it easy to love and serve at-risk youth and young adults, even if they are drug addicts or criminals or highly unpromising prospects. That comes easy to me, and I earn no brownie points for it. There are other faces – I won’t say whose – in which it is hard for me to see the face of Jesus. People I find easy to ignore, to turn away from, to reject. People who are hard for me to love. And in these people, Jesus confronts me.

A truly human Jesus knows me. He knows my weakness because He has been there. He challenges me to become like Him – a human being fully alive, fully engaged in loving others. And He confronts me in the faces of those others – human beings like Him, His brothers and sisters, who call out for my love, my compassion, my attention.

Because Jesus is truly human, He does all this to me. And if Jesus were merely human, I would have to stop there and say I can go no farther along the path of following Him; I don’t have what it takes. But because He is truly God as well, He has walked the path before me and ensured my success despite my failures. Truly God and truly human, He knows me, He confronts me, and He challenges me to follow Him.

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36 thoughts on “God the Son: Truly Human

  1. Pingback: God the Son: Truly Human: Bloggin’ the 28 | Johnny's Cache

  2. Nobody ever talks about Jesus’ sexuality. Since he was a perfect man, or at least an ideal man, let’s assume he was, needless to say, heterosexual. It goes without saying. He had plenty of time to marry before his three years of service, but he chose not to. If he did marry the bible does not mention it in the same way that it doesn’t mention whether all of the twelve apostles were married or if Paul was married at some point in his life.

    But back to Christ the heteroSexual man. If he was a normal man, then his anatomy responded in the same way as does that of heterosexual men. He never yielded to sin, but men, at least very virile or those with a full tank of testosterone, are easily aroused. Perhaps most would think it impolite to say these things, but if it’s part of God’s creation, than the question begs to be asked. Yes, Jesus was without sin, but–if only for a flickering moment–did he anatomically become aroused? Of course, because he didn’t give in to tempation, as the Bible says, he did nothing with that arousal, and focused on more spiritual realities.

    Male arousal is different from female arousal. It shows easily, whereas a woman can hide it well.

    I would posit that unless Jesus was as easily aroused as any normal male–especially during his years as an adolescent–then he was more than human, in a word Superhuman.

  3. It’s true, most of us are squeamish about talking about Jesus’ sexuality. My assumption is that He was a normal human male, and was aroused by the sight of an attractive woman, but chose not to have sex. But it’s certainly a topic on which the Bible is resoundingly silent.

  4. Trudy,

    Wonderful post!

    On the Jesus and sex bit, I heard an NT theologian (who I think was a Catholic priest) being interviewed at the height of the DaVinci Code craze, and he mentioned that there is nothing wrong with Jesus having sex, and that if in fact he had been “married” to Mary, the church would have probably had a healthier attitude to sex through its history.

    This is not a problem because Christians, as you point out, have believed in Jesus full divinity AND humanity.

  5. I think he was trying to argue that it is “impossible’ to live right sexually as a “normal male”.
    This is of course untrue.
    If it’s one thing this misguided realism has done is deplete the potential of human beings.

    Jesus did not obey His Father of His own strength. He asked God for help and overcame.
    God does not ask us to do anything He will not give us the power to do.

  6. Wondering, all I was asking was if Jesus, ahem, experienced sexual arousal, as a normal, red-blooded male is supposed to experience from time to time. I hope he was, otherwise he couldn’t relate to something that happens very naturally and without the least bit of intention on the part of a human male. It makes perfect sense that the Being who designed the intricacies of male sexual arousal had that very response fully operative when he become one of us.

    Or are you implying that for an unmarried Christian male to become spontaneously aroused is somehow sinful? The sin comes in with any action taken or continued lustful thoughts that the free moral agent engages in. But please don’t set us back centuries by saying that there’s something inherently sinful about natural and quite healthy male sexual arousal. And let’s not forget the other side of the aisle. Spontaneous and unintentional female arousal is not in itself a sinful thing either. Or have I typed myself into the wrong blog unintentionally?

  7. I’d be surprised to hear anyone argue that arousal = sin. I would think of arousal as a normal physiological (and perhaps psychological) reaction. But of course it is closely linked to temptation, because once one is sexually aroused by someone, there is the temptation to complete the experience by having a sexual encounter. I would assume that Jesus experienced and resisted the temptation — if He really was tempted in all points like as we are, then He got aroused, just as He got bored and angry and irritated and all the other things we humans get.

  8. Great questions! All go to the heart of the presumed, and taught, humanity of Jesus.

    Some begin with the “Virgin” birth, which cannot be proved, and which no one even knew of until long after when the the Gospels Matthew and Luke were written; and incidentally containing contradictory genealogies. Wasn’t Jesus considered to be a “bastard” child by his contemporaries? When did the idea originate that his mother was a virgin if not with the Gospels very loose and erroneous reinterpretation of the OT, particularly Isaiah?

    Where in Scripture does it clearly state that Jesus was BOTH human and God? And are we not totally dependent on the NT writers for their thoughts and words as they perceived him, while none can definitively be shown that they were eyewitnesses or heard him?

    Does claiming divinity for Jesus also mean that he is, at the same time God? Or is God His father? How can both be true? Did not the Gospel writers “put words in Jesus’ mouth”? And in all honesty, shouldn’t we admit that this doctrine of the Godhead originate hundreds of years later?

    When it is said that “God the Son existed in heaven with the Father from eternity, became incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth” was Jesus then “begotten of the Father”?

    Yes, there is ample confusion on what we as Adventists were taught, with more emphasis on our ability to eventually become sinless as was Jesus. This placed an impossible burden on many.

    What was he like as a baby? Did he not cry when angry, hungry, or needing attention? Again, we know nothing about this larger part of his life.The question of Jesus’ sexuality is a real one and should be answered. Also, what about his childhood, of which we have nothing. Did he never display the necessary independent spirit that is a normal part of maturation? It seems that his staying in Jerusalem might have been a demonstration. Did he never even explore his own sexuality which is part of the normal developing childhood experiences? Again, speculation often errs on the side of making him inhuman rather than human, like us.

    There are many suppositions but how many can be verified?

  9. Elaine, you’re right that many of our speculations can’t be verified. The New Testament record tells us how the earliest Christians viewed Jesus and I think there is ample evidence there for the view of Jesus as both human and divine — even though that was not a fully developed theology in the first century. “Fully God and fully man” as a theological statement certainly comes from a later era, but I think first-century Christians, especially the first-generation, were confronted with the conundrum of a man who they knew was as human as they were, yet who had earned the right to be worshipped as God. For good Jewish monotheists this must have been terribly confusing…

    It’s interesting to me to see how quickly any discussion of Jesus’ humanity gets centred on the two aspects that I find least interesting but that seem to fascinate most people: Jesus’ sexuality, and human perfectibility. It is interesting to speculate on Jesus’ sexuality but I don’t think the NT offers a shred of evidence that He was anything other than celibate. I’ve always thought it made no sense for Jesus to marry, not because marriage or sex is bad or evil, but because it would set up an intimate relationship between Jesus and ONE human being — His wife — that seems inappropriate. We are ALL the bride of Christ, not just one human being. And the possible ramifications of having real-life descendants of Jesus seems like something better avoided … However, my idea of Jesus’ divine nature, or sinlessness, certainly wouldn’t be affected if we somehow unearthed irrefutable evidence that He WAS married and had children. It just doesn’t seem as huge a deal to me as it does to, say, Dan Brown.

    As for perfectability, as I said in the post, it seems so remote from my reality that I can’t worry about it. I do think Jesus didn’t come just to die — I think His life meant something, that it was meant to be an example for us of what humanity could be. If I knew that I could be as fully human, as fully loving, as fully honest and courageous and present as Jesus was at every moment of my life, that would be wonderful — and I think it is theoretically possible but highly unlikely, certainly the ideal to which He wants me to attain. But I don’t see that as having any relation to my salvation … I am accepted on the basis of His perfection, not my own.

  10. Raul,
    For a while I thought that is what you were trying to say: “arousal = sin”.

    Just because people don’t talk about it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen–not does it mean that people are ashamed of it (although I fail to see why that even matters).

    People do not talk about it mostly because they find it to be irrelevant.
    Nothing of the sort is mentioned in the Bible (this would have been impossible, since the Bible is a narrative of the observed and told).

    Other than that, sexuality was irrelevant to the central mission of Jesus–which was to die for our sins.

  11. We should humbly admit that everything we know about Jesus was written much later by those who created the idea of a “God-man” something very common in that contemporary culture. Even Paul, who wrote more fully in explaining Jesus’ purpose, never saw or knew him. It should give us pause to wonder about the seeming assurance of everything we espouse about him, shouldn’t it?

  12. Well, Elaine, I think what you say is based on a number of assumptions — that none of the NT writers were eyewitnesses of Jesus, that they were more steeped in Greco-Roman religious culture than in Jewish monotheism, that the Jesus of the gospels is similar to the “God-man” of pagan mythology, and that the NT writers were consciously “creating” rather than attempting to report on lived experience. Any or all of those assumptions MAY be true, but all of them can be (and have been) challenged, too, so I would be a long way from saying that we have to “humbly admit” anything based on those assumptions.

  13. Okay,
    A few points here–

    Elaine
    August 17th, 2007 at 9:11 pm

    Great questions! All go to the heart of the presumed, and taught, humanity of Jesus.

    Some begin with the “Virgin” birth, which cannot be proved, and which no one even knew of until long after when the the Gospels Matthew and Luke were written;

    How do you know when the disciples knew what they knew about Jesus?
    They were all contemporaries–and one was even entrusted with the care of Mary while Jesus was hanging on the cross.
    And that is not even considering the prophecy of Isaiah on the matter.

    … and incidentally containing contradictory genealogies.

    There are no contradictory genealogies in the Bible.
    One may be longer than the other, (and contains the matrilineal line of Jesus–read Rachmiel Frydland).
    the word “contradictory” is over-used in my opinion. Not everything that is different is “contradictory”.

    Wasn’t Jesus considered to be a “bastard” child by his contemporaries? When did the idea originate that his mother was a virgin if not with the Gospels very loose and erroneous reinterpretation of the OT, particularly Isaiah?

    It could be that she was a virgin, and that Isaiah did indeed mean what he meant.

    Where in Scripture does it clearly state that Jesus was BOTH human and God?

    What have you concluded from your Bible studies on the matter?
    What conclusions have you drawn from your own Bible reading?

    And are we not totally dependent on the NT writers for their thoughts and words as they perceived him, while none can definitively be shown that they were eyewitnesses or heard him?

    Not any more than other historical writers.
    There is probably no better documented life in recent antiquity.

    Does claiming divinity for Jesus also mean that he is, at the same time God? Or is God His father? How can both be true?

    Is it your lot to understand everything about God?
    How can God be God if we know everything about Him–and right now at that?
    What kind of God would be easily comprehensible by humans?
    How can you claim that we can only know God from a human perspective and then try to limit Him to our human understanding of relationships?
    Keeping in mind that this is a God that exists outside of time and space?

    Did not the Gospel writers “put words in Jesus’ mouth”? And in all honesty, shouldn’t we admit that this doctrine of the Godhead originate hundreds of years later?

    The doctrine had to originate sometime. It’s just like the Sanctuary Doctrine. People aren’t given more light than they can handle.
    Anyways, just because it has a name doesn’t mean that it didn’t exist.

    When it is said that “God the Son existed in heaven with the Father from eternity, became incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth” was Jesus then “begotten of the Father”?

    I am beginning to wonder about the merits of treating each of these questions with equal weight. Very many of them are trivial.
    How are any of them important for your Christian walk (assuming you are a Christian)?
    These are all nice questions to ask Jesus when we get to heaven; but until then, I question the value of searching for answers from these questions as a pre-requisite for belief.
    The Egyptian built the pyramids.
    How did they do it?
    Is this question relevant to the fact that they exist?

    Questions cannot replace one’s intellect.

    Unanswered questions are not intellectual arguments in themselves.

    Yes, there is ample confusion on what we as Adventists were taught, with more emphasis on our ability to eventually become sinless as was Jesus. This placed an impossible burden on many.

    What was he like as a baby? Did he not cry when angry, hungry, or needing attention? Again, we know nothing about this larger part of his life.The question of Jesus’ sexuality is a real one and should be answered. Also, what about his childhood, of which we have nothing. Did he never display the necessary independent spirit that is a normal part of maturation? It seems that his staying in Jerusalem might have been a demonstration. Did he never even explore his own sexuality which is part of the normal developing childhood experiences? Again, speculation often errs on the side of making him inhuman rather than human, like us.

    The Desire of Ages provides more background for people who want to know about Jesus’ childhood.

    There are many suppositions but how many can be verified?

    Which Christian suppositions are not based on history and the word of the Bible (the most reliable document of all time)?

  14. #
    Elaine
    August 17th, 2007 at 11:24 pm

    We should humbly admit that everything we know about Jesus was written much later by those who created the idea of a “God-man” something very common in that contemporary culture. Even Paul, who wrote more fully in explaining Jesus’ purpose, never saw or knew him. It should give us pause to wonder about the seeming assurance of everything we espouse about him, shouldn’t it?

    The Gospels were written within the lifetime of people who had known Jesus and had seen him or within a generation of it.
    they pass historical muster–and embarrassingly well at that.

    Now, where were these “god-men” in first and second-century Judaism?

    By the way, have you ever read the Bible, Elaine? . (I have learned never to make assumptions about you, so I must ask this based on previous statements of yours.)
    Paul says that he himself met Jesus.

  15. It is interesting that I was reading a book about “The Da Vinci Code” this morning. They were talking about this very thing–denial of the full humanity and full divinity of Jesus.
    I have never understood why this is such a hot-button topic (even in the early Church–with the Gnostics and all their concerns).

  16. I think it’s a hot-button topic because it’s a difficult one to keep in tension — fully divine and fully human IS a contradiction of sorts, or at best a mystery, and because we humans are not good at keeping contradictory ideas in tension, Christians have usually tended to emphasize one aspect or the other of Jesus’ nature (at the expense of the other, and at the risk of being called heretics by other groups of Christians).

    Elaine and Wondering, my view on the historical Jesus and the reliability of the gospels falls somewhere in between the two of you — less uncritically accepting than Wondering’s view, but more willing to treat the gospels and other NT writings as valid historical documents than Elaine is.

  17. “The Gospels were written within the lifetime of people who had known Jesus and had seen him or within a generation of it.
    they pass historical muster–and embarrassingly well at that.

    Now, where were these “god-men” in first and second-century Judaism?”

    Then perhaps you can furnish the names of the Gospel writers which you say knew him. Yes, they HEARD about him, often 2nd and 3rd hand.

    As for the “god-men” I don’t believe I mentioned Judaism. The Hellenistic society which was contemporary with Jesus, had “god-men” and their polytheistic beliefs were pervasive in the culture at that time.

    Paul did not say he personally saw Jesus, but according to him he “learned it only through a revelation of Jesus Christ….God, who had specially chosen me….chose to reveal his Son in me.” Wasn’t that a vision rather than a personal visit? Such “revelations” did not imply that it was a personal relationship.

  18. If I can stir the heretical pot, there is also the semi-Arianism of early, Arminian, American Christianity which held that Jesus was not co-eternal with God but was generated by God before the world was made. The early Adventists subscribed to this as do the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Later Day Saints. Tied to this position is the notion that humans can become demi-god figures like Jesus if they become perfect enough. This led to the perfectionist tendencies in these religions. It seems that the Calvinists went in the opposite direction, because from what I understand most of them would see the notion of Jesus being sexually aroused as heretical. In fact, I don’t know of any evangelical Christian groups where such a notion would be accepted in the mainstream as readily as in Adventism. I’m wondering if Julius (with his QoD/church history knowledge) would speak to this.

  19. You really have to be comfortable with a person or a subject, in this case our Lord Jesus, to allow yourself the trusting familiarity to ask these very human questions–and very 21st-century questions I might add–about essential parts of our nature, and by inference, His nature, namely his and our God-given sexuality.

    I think it’s also a generational thing. I don’t think an earlier generation–regardless of how progressive they may have considered themselves–would have felt so natural and at ease as most of us obviously feel about talking about this most human and most excellent of human dimensions.

    I’m especially appreciative to the females who have expressed their views with the ease that self-assured and in-touch adults normally possess. Thank you Trudy and Elaine.

    When we put Jesus on an alabaster pedestal and only stand in awe of his majesty–and well we should since He is our maker–nevertheless, we distance ourselves from a more intimate and closer experience with Him. By realizing that this wonderful God who created the expanding cosmos also breathed, burped, got sleepy, and was as anatomically correct and flesh-and-blood real as you or I, we’re another degree closer to Him than those who fail to consider Jesus in all his Human-Divine totality.

    I want to pray more to that kind of Jesus. I want to get to know that kind of Jesus more and tell Him more about my worries and my assured moments. With a good friend and confidant you normally let your hair down and confide with no artificial 19th-century civilities. I want to think of Jesus in as concrete and palpable a way as I would a long-time friend. Wouldn’t you?

  20. Thanks Trudy this was a good Sabbath blessing read!
    Chad

  21. David, you raise an interesting point. I had not even learned until very recently that early Adventists subscribed to the same Arian views as JWs and LDS. I’d be interested in knowing the process by which we moved more towards the mainstream view of Christ’s divinity. Is Arianism one of the “basics” that some of the hardline “historic Adventists” want us to get back to?

    Raul, you say “With a good friend and confidant you normally let your hair down and confide with no artificial 19th-century civilities. I want to think of Jesus in as concrete and palpable a way as I would a long-time friend.” I know some Christians in the Catholic and Orthodox traditions believe that we evangelicals are way TOO comfortable with the human side of Jesus — that we have a “Jesus is my buddy” religion that doesn’t truly appreciate the awe and majesty, the transcendance of the divine Christ. As I said in the post and in one of the comments above, I think it’s such an important tension that we need to maintain — to pray to a Jesus who IS “one of us” and yet at the same time so much more.

    Chad, glad you found this a good Sabbath read — I am preaching a slightly different version of the same thing in church today so I hope a few people in the congregation are blessed by reflecting on Jesus’ humanity.

  22. Hi Trudy:

    Good work on a topic that never fails to catch my interest…

    I’d like to present a couple comments/questions for your perspective.

    A Graham Maxwell’s theology is really big on the character of God requiring that God will never leave us without someone able to “mediate” Himself to His creation. The go-between role is where Christ fits in; to mediate God to us — without which we would remain in the “dark”. Christ then shows us the “Father” (Father being a word which has special meaning for humans — see that thread on spectrum); the mediation is not needed by God, (ie He knows us) but by us sort of idea. We obviously would find it far easier to understand/comprehend another “human” than we would a “God”. As further “evidence” for this notion, he asserts his belief (EGW and a certain reading of scripture) that Christ served that same function/role to the angels; Christ — Gabriel — was the other covering cherub, along with Lucifer.

    Anyway, an intriguing hypothesis Trudy — any comment on it?

    Second, I’ve an Atheist friend (actually he’s much more complicated than that) whose favorite book is “A Prayer for Owen Meany” by John Irving, is utterly fascinated by the question of how it was that Christ came to discover his divinity. Which raises the question of whether he was a human who “grew into” His “Godness” or a God who slowly came to realize His role as human?? I realize these are woefully inadequate “handles” by which to grasp this topic, but has Irving’s book lead you to any insights into how the mind of this human we later discovered was “God also” might have evolved???

    Thanks Trudy, and Blessed Sabbath to you….

  23. Trudy,

    I think you’ll find that quite a few religious groups had Arian tendencies in the 1800’s.

    I’m not too sure how we moved from it, but Christianity in general seemed to move more toward our current understanding and then specifically some of the material in Uriah Smith’s book, Daniel and Revelation was removed because of it’s Arian influence.

    I don’t know if Historic Adventists want a return to Arianism, all though I’ve heard of some confusion about the Holy Spirit and the work of Christ.

  24. Trudy:

    The only Adventists I’ve known who want to go back to the semi-Arian position are people I’ve interacted with online. According to Jerry Moon’s material in his book on the trinity, the most important factor in moving the Adventist church towards the trinitarian position was Ellen White’s statement in Desire of Ages. It goes something like: “In Christ is life original, unborrowed, underived.”

  25. Bob, your question about when or how did Jesus begin to realize that he was both human and divine has always been troubling. Even a small child does not develop the idea of her total independence from mother or others until 5 or 6, and if Jesus began that discovery, when did he realize that he was also divine? That seems incomprehensible for a child to discover but at some time it must have occurred to him. Since we humans have, in some way, created his human/divine status, surely that should be something considered earlier before that conclusion was reached.

  26. Bob:

    Your articulated the Calvinist/Arminian Christological divide better than I. The Calvinist views Christ as the Divine savior. The Arminian as the human example. Our job is to embrace Jesus as fully human and fully divine, as savior and example.

  27. Just meditatively musing about how Jesus could have come to realize he was divine.(extrapolating from later miracles he seemed confident/almost nonchalant about performing)…

    His parents worrying about a coming storm that would ruin someone’s crop, he goes out and wishes it stopped, and it does? It startles, even himself and he starts to wonder though he keeps it to himself. After repeats, he is sure, and still keeps it a secret.

    Perhaps he was sharing his lunch as a child (from Desire of Ages) with a beggar, more gather about him and as he parcels out the bread while praying, it keeps going on and on. He tries to play the miracle off as to not attract suspicion.

    Maybe, Mary needed an ingredient for the sabbath meal and while she was deliberating on what to substitute, he changes the substituted ingredient into the desired one- his mom keeps this inexplicable happening in mind at a later wedding.

    What kind of thoughts would go through a youngster’s head when he realizes unusual powers? How does he try to find out what mission he is sent to accomplish? How does he prepare himself for such a tragic brief ministry and death? What natural temptations present themselves immediately and how does he psychologically/spiritually struggle through them to his God given vision of self-sacrifice as a lamb?

    Truly his “coming of age” was more profound than hormones, peer pressure, and rebellion against authority. How do you rebel against divine destiny? Or do you create it?

  28. Jesus’ humanity and his divinity were completely separate. One did not interact with the other. Jesus had two wills, a human will, as well as a divine one. Interestingly enough, he used neither one, as he often said that his will was to do the will of his father and not his own will. Ellen G. White says that he made no plans for himself. Notwithstanding this choice not to do his own will, he at least had to choose daily/hourly to follow God’s will for his life, which in some minimal way is a kind of exercise of his own will. This is especially significant in Gethsemane when he chose to do what God wanted him to do, and not what he would have preferred when he said that if it were possible for him not to drink “this” cup, then that was what he (human Jesus) would have wanted, but he did not insist on his own will, but on what God wanted him to do, to die for humanity.

    If you speak of two wills inhabiting one body, can you then speak of two intelligences co-existing within that one flesh-and-blood body? You’d then have Two separate intelligences that were One being, nevertheless. Or did he posessess one intelligence but with two natures, a human and a divine one? Nevertheless, this concept of Two natures or wills existing as One being sounds very familiar as in Three beings existing as separate and distinct intelligences, yet being One, as well.

    I hope no one accuses me of inferring that I’m proposing a “Tetra(u)nity”: the Father, Divine Jesus, Human Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. The thought occurred to me that someone might think that so I’m answering your objection before you have a chance to state it.

  29. “Jesus’ humanity and his divinity were completely separate. One did not interact with the other.”

    This is a good example of the kind of theological language that makes no sense whatsoever to me. It’s a lot more vague than the Trinity even — what could it possibly mean to say that a person has two completely separate natures, unless you’re talking about someone with Multiple Personality Disorder. Also, where does this idea of His divine and human natures being completely separate even come from? I’m not sure how could infer that from Scripture….

  30. Trudy, those are my questions, also. That is a most contorted attempt at explaining the unexplainable. The hypothesis of the Trinity is a sufficient dilemma alone, without the added premise of “two completely separate natures”? Where in Scripture can this possibly be elucidated? Or is it a mere speculation?

  31. Arlyn:

    Those are the musings of a “sanctified imagination” as far as I’m concerned. Somewhere (please don’ ask where) EGW talks about reaching to God with a sanctified imagination. I really like your thoughts Arlyn. Though there is no way of knowing, really, how all this came about. In the wondering about it however, I think is great soil for growth.

    The very elusive nature of the topic here is an invitation to wonder; I’m rather certain that we will take our “wonderings” along with us and build on them.

    I am a wee bit troubled though Arlyn, that perhaps Christ discovered His divinity through miracles. Is the ability to do magic the test of divinity? Would God be any less God if He just stood there with us and cried? Well, if not miracles… what?? Again, great topic for wondering.

    As Elaine says, we’ve trying to explain the unexplainable. But I do think there is value in trying. (just don’t get too dogmatic about it)

    I am glad this topic didn’t degenerate into “the nature of Christ”. For some, He MUST have been of a “fallen”nature. For others, He clearly was not…

    Part of the reason I love this topic so is that it is the one sure link to my atheist friend; he is utterly captivated by the notion of a human discovering he is divine. He even wonders if the point is not that each of us has some element of “divine” within us! (created in the image of God… You do this to the least of these you do it to ME…)

    I really feel little burden to “solve” this issue — on this side of the divide. Great fun and blessings come from pondering it however…

  32. This morning as I was meditating on Christ, I thought about his personality must really have been like. Yes, we have the gospels and from that we can deduce a lot, but different people read those gospels and come up with different composites of Jesus’ personality. He clearly had a complex personality. We all have a unique personality that is mostly inherited from our parents or grandparents. Did human-divine Jesus inherit his personality from Mary’s dna? Did he re-assume the personality he had when he was just divine, earlier in his existence? If he did, then he had a perfectly divine personality. Was Mary only an incubator for divine dna? He’s spoken of as the second Adam. Did he have as perfect a human personality as Adam had when he came from the creator’s hand? Where did Adam get his dna and personality from? Did he get it directly from his divine creator? Was Adam a human version of the divine God? (Let us create man in our own image.) Since Eve was created from Adam’s rib, then could she have shared in his dna, as well, and have had his personality, as well? Were they really one being but in a male and a female manifestation? In that case the one, Adam, became two, and the two became one flesh?

  33. Heresy 101: I believe that the substitutionary atonement makes the Old Testament obsolete, but that to be right with God, one needs to be right with God, not simply declared right with God. If God the Father required the perfection and blood of Christ to get us off the hook, ’cause we’re not good enough for God, doesn’t that make God a monster?

    Further, if Jesus was perfect (whatever that means), can perfection be perfected, that is, if He had lived longer, could He have become even better, or more perfect? I don’t think Jesus had to be absolutely perfect, and even though I don’t believe that the substitutionary atonement applies to us, I don’t think we have to be absolutely perfect either.

    Seems to me, one needs to be in harmony with the character of Christ, and decidedly part of the solution; as opposed to being in rebellion with the character of Christ, and decidedly part of the problem.

    In short, I don’t believe that God is a blood-thirsty, legalistic-perfectionist. My God is reasonable, fun, and maybe even a little sexy once in a while!

  34. Thank you for your interesting and challenging blog Trudy! Although I am no longer an Adventist I nevertheless frequently visit ‘Reinventing the
    Adventist Wheel’, which in turn alerted me to your blog.

    I first began studying the ‘Jesus’ question in 1981, and since that time my fascination and wonder regarding the human Jesus has never abated. Always I have come away from reading the synoptics with more questions than answers; however the questions constantly recur, again and yet again; who was this Jesus? Was he possibly divine?

    The most remarkable experience of all is the sense which I gain, that Jesus is actually talking directly to me through His astonishing actions and His teachings; questioning me over that vast period of two millenia – speaking to me, if you please. I search Marcus Borg, NT Wright, Dominic Crossan, EP Sanders, J P Meier and a host of others for an answer. They all hint at various views of Jesus relating to the question of the human Jesus and they somehow assist me in my search for the truth about Him. Nevertheless my questions still provide no concrete answers.

    My take on the gospels and the eyewitnesses is that Mark probably gives the best view of the disciples consternation regarding who Jesus really was. It is primarily Mark (repeated by both Luke and Matthew) who has the disciples asking the difficult questions. And then there are finally the astonishing accounts of the resurrection, which set off a huge amount of surmisings (in my opinion) of who exactly Jesus was (remember, it was only a few people who are recorded as having witnessed Jesus after his reappearance).

    It seems to have been puzzlement over the resurrection accounts that motivated the writer to the Hebrews and likewise the writer of the Gospel of John to shed light on that early quest; who was Jesus, and finally what did He set out to do. They had in my opinion been mulling over the question since His death, and probably had most of the answers in their head soon after that, although they wrote much later. Although I cannot altogether agree with the writer to the Hebrews, nevertheless the first few verses of both that book and John’s gospel seem to indicate that both those writers had grappled with the problem and had subsequently found the answer.

    (There are so many ways of looking at Jesus – take the great Hindu Mahatma Gandhi – shortly after one of his longer fasts he called upon his two neices to sing the hymn to him “When I survey the wondrous cross”.)

    How magnanimous Jesus is . . . eventually he is not about either the resurrection or his divinity – he is more about the question which he confronts each of us with “who do (you) think that I am”. That question is really about what we intend to do with His words – His teachings, and finally His promptings. I do not suppose He would be at all upset if, with our honesty and integrity we reply that we do not know, but that we do love and admire Him above all other men, and that He impels us to greater deeds in His name. Perhaps, being children of the Enlightenment, we can say no other . . .

  35. You may be interested in a website focused on the words of Jesus: redletterchurch.net.

  36. Am a student of carlile theological college in kenya.i realy appreciate your effort to come with such awonderful discussion of how Jesus was truely God and truely human.God blessed you and richly increase your knowledge Amen. but i wish if possible you forward it to my E mail.

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